Should I Stretch?
Winter is coming! Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than nicely warmed up ones. According to research conducted by Scott (2016), when muscle temperature drops below 32 degrees celcius, less energy is required to cause muscle tears.
So a question I am often asked is, "Should I stretch before exercise?".
My answer to this is typically NO. Stretching a cold muscle could be likened to stretching a cold piece of plasticine. If you go out and just static stretch, you could be placing yourself in a dodgy situation and cause more harm than good! Also, sustained static stretches before sport have been shown to reduce muscle force production and reduce performance. .
But Do Warm-up!
The best way to warm up would be to do a dynamic warm up. You might see the rugby and football players doing this on the sideline if waiting to go onto the pitch.
Dynamic warm ups are typically sport specific and stretch the muscles in an active way as opposed to a static stretch which may have little benefit. Examples of dynamic exercises may include walking lunges, leg swings to the front or side, trunk rotations and bottom kicks. These exercises allow the muscles to warm up in an effective way as it allows for both activation and stretch of both the agonist (main muscle like the quadriceps) and antagonist (the muscle which does the opposite movement of the agonist muscle like the hamstrings).
If you are one that enjoys the static stretch, my advice would be to start with a light jog for 5-10 minutes before commencing your static stretches.
Post exercise, static stretching and foam rolling are also important recovery tools, so don't neglect them even though you think you've stretched enough pre-exercise!